Between 2015 and 2017 the Berry community had to endure two very lengthy and painful campaigns objecting to applications for tourist accommodation developments. In each case, Council was taken to the Land & Environment Court by the applicants and it became clear that there were loopholes in the planning legislation.

At the Forum meeting in February 2016, attended by Clrs Patricia White and John Wells, during a discussion on the Mt Hay DA, the following update was read out and minuted –

  • A critical issue was raised with Council’s Planning Department about its interpretation of what form of “tourist & visitor accommodation” can be considered permissible in an E3 zone. The Planning Dept advised that any cabin-style development is considered permissible. The Committee considers this response to be unacceptable and will be raising the issue with the L&E Court.

At the Forum meeting in June 2016, attended by Clrs Patricia White and Lynne Kearney, during a discussion on ‘LEP Loophole – a Threat to Berry’, the following presentation was minuted –

  • A local planning firm is using a generic description ‘tourist and visitor accommodation’ to obtain LEP land use permissibility for two DAs. The genuine land use is farm stay, which requires the income from tourist accommodation to be secondary to farm income. However, neither DA would qualify as farm stay and the generic description is being used as a loophole to circumvent the LEP provisions. The Committee has written to the Planning Minister, raising the matter as a statewide issue.

At the Forum meeting in August 2016, attended by Clrs Amanda Findley, Andrew Guile and John Wells, it was reported and minuted that –

  • David Carter and Stuart Coughlan met with Planning Minister, Rob Stokes and Gareth Ward on Thursday 11 August to discuss the Committees concerns about uncontrolled development of tourist accommodation (see attached briefing paper). The Minister recognized the importance of the issue and the statewide implications. He instructed the Department official at the meeting to investigate and propose how the loophole could be closed.

The attached comprehensive briefing paper formed the basis of the discussion at the meeting.

In October 2017, it was reported that a meeting had been held with new Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Gareth Ward to again lobby for the planning loopholes to be closed. Further meetings took place during 2018 to discuss the solutions we had proposed in the briefing paper and in October the Minister instructed the Department to commence work on amendments to the statewide legislation. However, in November Department officials advised that they would first conduct a survey of all councils across NSW to assess whether the impact of the loopholes was statewide or local, effectively putting any action on hold until after the election.

Locally, Council had also previously agreed to review its tourist accommodation planning provisions, and at the Development Committee meeting on 5 March, resolved to commence the review in the near future . The Forum Committee had provided the meeting with a summary of the key planning  inconsistencies and  solutions that would close the loopholes in the Shoalhaven LEP.

At the meeting, the Committee’s proposals were strongly supported by Clr Andrew Guile and other councilors. However, one councillor was concerned about staff undertaking the ‘Department’s work’ and another expressed concerns about restrictions on tourist development. Clr Guile responded, explaining why the concerns were groundless. A compromise recommendation was agreed, which included consideration of the Forum Committee’s proposals. This important subject will be discussed at the next Forum meeting.